Regan moves closer to confirmation as EPA Administrator
Michael Regan is a step closer to becoming the first Black man to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, after the Senate Environmental Committee voted 14-6 to advance his nomination. (Lisa Jackson was the first African American to serve in that office, under President Obama.) Regan has pledged to restore science and transparency at the EPA and to “focus on marginalized communities and move ‘with a sense of urgency’ to combat climate change.” Advocates voiced their support, noting Regan’s track record of environmental justice leadership and community engagement while heading the Department of Environmental Quality in North Carolina. Assuming Regan is confirmed, he will inherit an agency in ugly disarray after four years of leadership hostile to the organization’s mission.
With continuing accumulation of evidence of how fossil fuel pollution is impacting health and taking lives—in particular among communities of color—the Biden-Harris administration will need all the talent possible to quickly act and address climate and racial inequities as well as economic stimulus, and how broad coalitions can support those priorities and prioritize environmental justice.
Black History Month is a good time to celebrate the rise of environmental justice concerns in public policy discussions. SF Environment is celebrating Black environmental leaders; also this month, the Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
US vs. Norway: electrification rivalry enters new, intense phase (not really)
General Motors made a social media splash last week with an elaborate ad for the electric vehicles it plans to roll out over the next several years. In the ad, actors Will Farrell, Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina rush off to Norway to find out how that relatively small country is beating the US in rolling out EV technology ("We can't let them show us up," the ad warns). The automaker's highlighting of clean-energy transportation is a welcome sign of the times, with rival companies Ford, Audi and others also investing in the shift away from gasoline engines. However, commentators were quick to point out the irony of GM's new enthusiasm for EVs given the company's recent history of fighting emissions reduction rules. Climate journalist Emily Atkin notes that GM declared its zeal for low-carbon vehicles only after a new US government signaled that carbon reduction would be among its top priorities. She also suggests that if GM wants to establish its climate cred, it might want to stop funding climate-denying candidates... and admit that it spent decades trying to undermine climate science.
At any rate, while a US cultural shift towards clean transportation is welcome, Robinson Meyer notes in The Atlantic that in the future "Americans’ mass adoption of electric vehicles will seem inevitable." EVs cost less to operate and maintain than gas-powered cars, are more reliable... and are a lot quieter. Bonus links: in response to GM's ad, several companies had a little fun standing up for Norway: Audi touted its own EVs while praising Norway's love of protecting the Earth and Circle K advertised its Scandinavian investment in EV charging infrastructure.
The faux-grassroots Timber Unity movement played a significant role in derailing climate progress at the Oregon Legislature in both 2019 and 2020, last year showing up in Olympia as well. In Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber takes a fresh look at Timber Unity’s leadership and its ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.